The implications for nutrition research following the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union

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Following MPs majority vote in favour of beginning the process of leaving the EU on Wednesday 1 February, The President of The Nutrition Society, Professor Philip Calder, has released the following statement on behalf of the Society:

UK scientific research is widely recognised to be world class. This is particularly true for nutrition where the UK has an established reputation as a world-leading centre for research and teaching.  Our research in nutrition contributes much to advancing knowledge and to developing solutions to major challenges to health and well-being. Nutrition research is more important than ever: according to the WHO Global Burden of Disease report (1) poor diet is now the number one factor driving poor health. A vigorous nutrition research community is central to developing strategies to deal with nutritionally-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In addition to meeting this societal and economic challenge, high quality, well-funded nutrition research is fundamental to keeping the UK’s place as a major force in the global agri-food industry.  

In recent decades, the European Union has been a key player in maintaining the quality of the UK’s science. In nutrition, as in many other fields of research, the EU has directly funded much research, has developed and supported vital student and research exchange programmes and has built networks of excellence that far surpass those found anywhere else in the world. The EU’s contribution to our research and teaching in nutrition has added immense value and prestige to the UK, enhancing our reputation and our leadership role and helping the UK to train the best possible researchers to solve some of key problems of the future.  

On its own, the UK is unlikely to maintain the level of funding our scientists currently receive from the EU. One of the main objectives of the Brexit negotiations, therefore, has to be to maintain the quality of UK research. The UK needs to be an integral part of the exchange programmes, such as Erasmus and the Marie Curie Training Fellowships, and to participate fully in the research networks supported by the EU. The UK will be unlikely to maintain its pre-eminence in research, including in nutrition research, unless support is maintained for bringing the best students and scientists from continental Europe to the UK, and for our own students and scientists to receive training and skills from highly skilled collaborators from within the EU.

The Nutrition Society, therefore, urges the Government to ensure that we maintain the strong links with the EU in order to retain access to funding and collaboration in the area of nutrition research and teaching.  We are ready and willing to engage in any discussions to achieve this end and we are actively developing our links with the UK Parliament at Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, The National Assembly for Wales and The Northern Ireland Assembly.

Reference

(1) Newton JN et al. (2015) Changes in health in England, with analysis by English regions and areas of deprivation, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet. S0140-6736(15)00195-6.

2 February 2017

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